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Hiroshi Sugimoto's 'Honkatori' Exhibition: New Works Displayed at Shoto Museum of Art

Based in New York since the 1970s, the contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) has dedicated himself to a diverse range of activities, including not only photography but also fields such as architecture, calligraphy, and the performing arts. In recent years, Sugimoto has come to see honkadori, a traditional technique used in waka poetry, as an essential means of Japanese culture and set out to employ it in his own work. An assemblage of works based on this concept was shown in Honkadori, an exhibition held at the Himeji City Museum of Art in 2022.

杉本博司 《カリフォルニア・コンドル》 1994年 ピグメント・プリント 作家蔵 ©Hiroshi Sugimoto

California Condor

Hiroshi Sugimoto, 1994, Pigment print, Collection of the artist

©Hiroshi Sugimoto

Conceived as a method of composing waka, the honkadori technique involves consciously incorporating part of a famous old poem (honka) into a new one, and supplementing it with the spirit of a given age or an original element. By dealing with the honka and developing a deeper understanding of it, the writer is expected to compare the new work with the old poem based on the conventions of the honkadori technique, or compose a poem that transcends the original one.

The Honkadori exhibition began in Himeiji, a city in western Japan. Because these latest developments in Sugimoto’s series are being presented in Tokyo, located in eastern Japan, the new exhibition is titled Honkadori Azumakudari (Honkadori Eastbound). The exhibition includes the premiere of Sugimoto’s new work Mt. Fuji, which incorporates Katsushika Hokusai’s South Wind, Clear Sky (also known as Red Fuji), a magnificent depiction of the mountain as seen from a traveler’s eyes on the way to eastern Japan from Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. Also on view is Sugimoto’s Brush Impression, a new series of works based on calligraphic models made by dipping a brush into developing liquid or fixing solution and applying it to photographic paper in a darkroom. Although the exhibition consists primarily of new works, it also includes other notable honkadori pieces such as California Condor, based on ink-wash works by the Song dynasty painter Muqi. In addition, we are presenting all nine stories that comprise The Monk’s Tale Picture Scroll, a work that is believed to date to the Muromachi era (1336–1573). Of particular interest is Shi ni Gusuri (Poisoned Powder), a story which, due to its similarity to the kyogen play Busu (Delicious Poison), may have served as a honka for the play. In this exhibition, we examine the evolution of Sugimoto’s art, a world encompassing photography as well as a variety of other artistic fields and expressions in which contemporary art repeatedly harmonizes and intersects with classic works.

初公開作品  杉本博司 《富士山図屏風》  2023年 ピグメント・プリント 作家蔵  ©Hiroshi Sugimoto

First publicly released work

Mt. Fuji

Hiroshi Sugimoto, 2023, Pigment print, Collection of the artist

©Hiroshi Sugimoto

新作 杉本博司 《Brush Impression 0625「火」》 2023年 銀塩写真 作家蔵 ©Hiroshi Sugimoto

New work

Brush Impression 0625 [Fire]

Hiroshi Sugimoto, 2023, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the artist

©Hiroshi Sugimoto

Bay of Sagami, Enoura

Hiroshi Sugimoto, January 1, 2021, Pigment Print, Collection of the artist

©Hiroshi Sugimoto


Information Hiroshi Sugimoto: Honkadori Azumakudari Exhibition Period: September 16, 2023 – November 12, 2023 (First Half: September 16 – October 15, Second Half: October 17 – November 12)

Closed Days: Mondays (Open on September 18 and October 9), September 19, October 10

Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Fridays until 8:00 PM)

*Last entry 30 minutes before closing time

Venue: The Shoto Museum of Art Address: 2-14-14 Shoto, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

* Some works will be replaced during the exhibition period


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